The “Show Me State” apparently doesn’t want to show anything.
Reclaim the Records asked the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services for copies all the state’s birth and death records from 1910 through 2015. The group sought the information under Missouri’s Sunshine Law. An attorney for the department replied that the the birth list would take the agency 23,376 hours to compile and the death list 11,688 hours. At $42.50 an hour, the tab came to an eye-popping $1.5 million.
After some discussion, the attorney reduced the estimate to $1.46 million.
Reclaim the Records then hired their own attorney, Bernie Rhodes, a media-law specialist at the Kansas City law firm Lathrop & Gage. Rhodes asked the Department of Health and Senior Services for more information about the database that stored the birth and death records. Based on the information, he suggested some ideas and even provided the toll-free number for the help desk for software provider the department uses to retrieve records from its database.
After considering Rhodes’ suggestions, the department quoted a new estimate. The attorney for the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Service conceded that, in fact, the effort would not require thousands of hours of staff time. The records, the department said, would now cost $5,174, or a 99.7 percent decrease from the original price quote.
Then the story gets even more complicated.
Instead, the Department then notified notified Rhodes that it was refusing to provide the records at any price, citing a section of the Vital Records Act. Rhodes then responded with an 11-page letter telling the department that response violated the Missouri Sunshine Law and that, unless the lists were provided at their actual costs, Reclaim the Records planned to sue. The Department refused to supply the records.
Rhodes then filed a lawsuit last month demanding the department produce the requested records for no more than $500 and to pay his fees.
You can read the original Sunshine Law records requests from February 2016, the letters from the state, the letter from our Reclaim the Records’ attorney from August, and the actual legal papers filed in November, at: https://www.reclaimtherecords.org/records-request/7/.
Many other states publish basic birth and death indexes and make them available online.
You can read all the silly details in an article by Dan Margolies in the kcur.org web site at https://goo.gl/0osbYn.